A bath in the forest?

Bathing in the forest? It's not what you think.

Shrin Rin – yoku

Absolutely! Of course you all know that this, literally translated, means forest bathing and you’re wondering what on earth I’m on about! This refers to the concept that being out and about in nature has healing properties. Something the Japanese have known about for a very long time.
Generally we all kind of know this on some level – that you feel better after a long walk in the woods and that you don’t feel the same benefit after trodging round the shops for an hour or two. I confess I’d always rather put that down to the fact that you get into your stride and that you’re breathing fresh air and not stopping and starting. But there’s more to it than that!
Researchers have shown that being in and around nature has a measurable beneficial effect on our well being. There are changes in our immune system, improved healing and many other health benefits as a result of spending time out in the natural world. More interestingly it can be faked too.
A recent article in New Scientist caught my eye. In it they report that research is showing that if you expose bed-bound patients in intensive care to immersive experiences of peaceful natural surroundings by using big plasma screens, nature sounds and even piped in smells – it works too! I find that amazing. Clearly it’s not a substitute for the real thing but, if it has a demonstrable effect on how quickly you recover and heal, how cool is that? When I read about this I thought about how important it is that we do take the time to get out in nature and do own bit of “forest bathing”.
So many of us live our lives in cities and the only time we get out in nature is driving somewhere (clearly not the same!). Likewise getting our exercise in a sterile gym surrounded by antiseptic spray, mirrors and MTV is no substitute. (why DO they put all those mirrors in gyms? People know what they look like… that’s why they go there!). The other way that we can be “out in nature” is when we do the gardening. It’s a bit of a myth that gardening causes a lot of back problems, and that we’re full of sufferers in the gardening season; the truth is that it often helps people by giving them exercise AND they get their Shrin Rin – Yoku.
So to help yourself in a whole host of ways make sure you go out and do your Forest bathing. It may just be doing the garden, however, if you can do go for a walk in the woods, along the beach, by the broads or just round the park. Your health will, without question, will better for it in more ways than you thought.
Till next time
Enjoy the walking (and don’t forget your loofah!)
Yours in health
Dr Neil

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